Jason Baker

smARTbeats with Jason Baker of Fractal Cat

smARTbeats returns to WTMD on Saturday, November 10 during the weekly children’s program Young At Heart! On this month’s segment, host Lisa Mathews talks with Jason Baker, one of our talented teaching artists from Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). Jason is a board-certified music therapist and teaching artist by day. Kids lucky enough to have had him as their teacher in SALA over the past few summers will tell you he has a lot of wisdom and kindness to share. Do they even know that Jason is a bona fide rocker once the day is done?

Jason Baker with host Lisa Mathews in the WTMD studio.

In the classroom, Jason is known as a man who helps kids learn their math facts through writing their own beatbox riffs, who models compassion and collaboration, and who leads young percussionists with artistic excellence. No doubt, the same skills he uses as a music therapist cross over into his lessons. His students work diligently, checking their numbers and planning their beats in the arts-integrated math class. The kids are eager to support their peers as each finds the courage to perform their beatbox compositions at the mic.

Jason’s music majors exhibit the same cooperation and camaraderie as his math students. They don’t just play their instruments. With their drums in a circle, the young percussionists listen, they watch, they respond to one another. Their rhythm is alive and has a personality all its own.

By night, Jason Baker is the drummer for the highly acclaimed psychedelic rock band Fractal Cat. The classically trained musician’s beats are the pulse of Fractal Cat’s euphonic sound —and like a teacher in a classroom, he keeps the music rolling.

Young At Heart airs weekly on 89.7 WTMD from 7 to 8 am on Saturdays, featuring music that appeals to parents and children alike. Previous shows have featured music by Wilco, David Bowie, Andrew & Polly, Weezer, and others.

Hear Jason Baker’s smARTbeats interview online now!

Steve Cyphers Talks the Physics of Sound on smARTbeats!

smARTbeats returns to WTMD this Saturday, May 5 during the weekly children’s program Young At Heart! On this month’s segment, host Lisa Mathews sits down for a chat with professional frontman and percussionist, Young Audiences teaching artist Steve Cyphers. Tune in and you’ll hear why Maryland students absolutely love drumming with Mr. Steve!

The musician has performed for audiences on stage his entire adult life, touring with bands in the U.S. and abroad, contributing drums, percussion, songwriting, and vocals. “I truly believe music and art can help break down social and political walls and help to build cultural bridges,” Steve explained. “That being said, I simply enjoy performing for, and with, people!”

In schools, Steve helps students gain a deeper understanding of playing and notating rhythms and the science of sound. In addition to body percussion and call-and-response exercises, Steve’s students learn how to play a bucket with mallets designed and fabricated by the artist to accentuate the high and low pitches of the buckets, and to provide more volume control for the classroom. With Mr. Steve in the classroom, students investigate the physics of sound waves and even get creative by altering their “instrument,” to change its sound.

“I’d like to inspire students to venture further into music and performance, and interact with them in a positive, fun, and educational way.”

And inspire students, he does. If you’ve ever wondered what true happiness looks like, just watch a group of Steve’s students singing and playing James Brown’s “I Feel Good” on bucket drums!

Young At Heart airs weekly from 7 to 8 am on Saturdays, featuring music that appeals to parents and children alike. Previous shows have featured music by Wilco, David Bowie, Andrew & Polly, Weezer, and others.

Hear Steve Cyphers‘ smARTbeats interview online now!

smartbeats is Back with Uncle Devin!

smARTbeats returns to WTMD this Saturday, February 10 during the weekly children’s program Young At Heart! On this month’s segment, hostLisa Mathews sits down for a chat with the original “Drumcussionist,” Young Audiences teaching artist Uncle Devin. Tune in and you’ll hear why The Uncle Devin Show has been called “pure edutainment at its finest.”

Devin Walker has been playing percussion for more than 25 years with groups ranging from Fertile Ground to the Great Dizzie Gillespie, and has gained national acclaim as a leader in the children’s music industry with his unique musical style, real percussion instruments, and the latest in electronic drums.

“I realized I wasn’t just there to perform music, I was there to teach.”

In schools, the artist teaches children that percussion instruments are an essential part of history and the human experience. He uses different musical instruments, along with his award-winning book, “The ABC’s of Percussion with Music CD,” to help students understand how sounds made by percussion instruments were used to communicate. “If we never spoke a word, we could communicate through music,” said Devin.

The musician didn’t begin his career performing for children, but spending time with the young kids in his life certainly helped to steer him on that course. Devin’s niece loved his music so much that she once took recordings of her uncle reciting stories along with music to school so she could share them with her class. The children loved listening to their friend’s ‘Uncle Devin.’ “Soon enough, people began to refer to me with that title and that’s how the name came about.”

They weren’t the only kids that his music and stories stuck with. After performing in a school in Baltimore, he received a phone call from a friend. He suddenly heard his friend’s daughter on the line, reciting some of the same concepts he had shared with the school children earlier that day. She had been in the audience! “I thought, she’s got it! That was a wonderful moment because I realized I wasn’t just there to perform music, I was there to teach.”

Young At Heart airs weekly from 7 to 8 am on Saturdays, featuring music that appeals to parents and children alike. Previous shows have featured music by Wilco, David Bowie, Andrew & Polly, Weezer, and others.

Listen to Uncle Devin online now!

ssuuna at wise highschool

A Sense of Belonging: Ssuuna at Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School

ssuuna at wise highschool
Ssuuna performing a demo for students at Wise High School.

Young Audiences teaching artist Ssuuna, a dancer, musician, and storyteller from Uganda, brought his incredible stage presence to Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School recently. There, he taught over 100 high school students African dance and drumming using the same focused energy and passion he delivers on stage. What struck the teachers in attendance, however, was how well Ssuuna guided his students in building a community and how expertly he handled distractions in the classroom, even with pointed interruptions.
Ssuuna Residency at Wise High School

“He never raised his voice with them, but made it clear that their choices would have consequences,” recognized Mrs. Black, a 9th-grade teacher at the school. By encouraging students to examine each of his or her options and the consequences and rewards that go along with them, Ssuuna cultivates classrooms built on cooperation and encouragement. “He put the responsibility on the students to take ownership of their actions and choices, and it was very meaningful for students to have that responsibility.”

  ssuuna at wise highschool         ssuuna at wise highschool         ssuuna at wise highschool

Another participating teacher, Mr. Hughes, observed that the residency made students feel more relevant. “Ssuuna met the students where they were and gave them confidence and a sense of belonging, no matter what their interest,” he said. This “relevancy” seemed to be felt not only internally, but collectively. Participants created their own inclusive ritual by uniting and forming a prayer circle before performing at the culminating dance. Mrs. Black recalled how powerful the moment felt to her, “I was really inspired to see all kinds of students coming together to be supportive and work as a team in that way.”

It is so important for students to be understanding, especially at this age, rather than making others feel like they don’t fit in.

The culminating dance introduced one last challenge when a student suffered a panic attack onstage. Ssuuna stepped in to join the student and spoke with her. In the moments that followed, she was able to regain control, breathing and finally relaxing. Teachers could actually see the transition from panic to calm occur within the student. Mrs. Black described the experience as transcendent for the teachers, the students, and the audience. “That moment made the whole experience feel more intimate, supportive, and vulnerable,” Mrs. Black explained. By witnessing first-hand Ssuuna’s kindness and encouragement with the student in distress, the audience was inspired to also be encouraging and supportive. “It is so important for students to be understanding, especially at this age, rather than making others feel like they don’t fit in.”

ssuuna at wise highschool
Ssuuna delights and educates audiences from East Africa, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. He has performed at The World Bank, The Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian, and on numerous college campuses around the country. Learn more about Ssuuna’s offerings through Young Audiences.
Summer Arts Programming Improves Academic Performance

Young Audiences Summer Arts Programming Improves Academic Performance

Baltimore students in Young Audiences Summer & Learning Arts Academy Outperform Peers

Baltimore City Public Schools students who participated in a new arts-related summer academic program from Young Audiences avoided summer learning loss and, in many cases, gained ground on their national peers in standardized testing, according to evaluations released Tuesday. The new findings showed potentially groundbreaking progress in tackling summer learning loss, a chronic challenge facing public schools.

The results, confirmed in two separate studies involving nearly 800 students, are significant because summer learning loss – particularly among students at or below poverty level – is among the most difficult challenges facing the Baltimore school district and other high-poverty schools across the country. During summer, students typically fall below where they ended the previous grade, setting them back as they start a new school year. In fact, a 2013 National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) survey of 500 teachers found that 66 percent reported the need to spend three to four weeks re-teaching students course material at the beginning of the year. Another 24% reported the need to spend five to six weeks doing the same.

“City Schools has enjoyed a great partnership with Young Audiences, not only during the school year but also the past two summers,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools). “During the summer, Young Audiences reinforces key math and reading concepts through the arts and creative activities – and we’re pleased with the results we’ve seen. When students participate in summer learning programs that help them move ahead or reduce learning loss, they start the school year off stronger.”

The Young Audiences Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), run by the Baltimore-based arts-in-education nonprofit Young Audiences of Maryland in partnership with City Schools, was free for students and held at four sites across the city: Gardenville Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle, William Pinderhughes Elementary, and Fort Worthington Elementary/Middle. Eighty-eight percent of the participating students were from high-poverty Title I schools.

“These results were a pleasant surprise given that we generally expect that students will lose ground over the summer,” commented Dr. Marc L. Stein, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, who conducted a separate program evaluation for Young Audiences which looked at participating students’ academic skill and social-emotional development. “The Young Audiences summer program combines many of the best practices of summer learning programs and appears to be a promising model. These findings deserve to be investigated more rigorously to find out how and for whom the program appears to be working.”

“This is not your typical summer school program,” said Stacie Evans, Executive Director of Young Audiences. “We taught literacy and math through the arts every day and instruction was collaboratively taught by teaching artists and teachers specifically trained in arts-integration methods. If you walked into one of our classrooms, you might have seen students using hip hop music to help solve word problems in math, or creating dances to summarize and sequence main events in a story.”

The Baltimore City Public Schools evaluation found:

  • For math, statistically significant results showed that students in grades 3-5 who regularly attended (defined as attending at least 75% of the program) the SALA improved 1.8% percentile points in national student rankings on i-Ready standardized testing from the spring of 2016 to the fall of that year. That compares to a decrease of 2.8% percentile points for city schools students who did not attend any summer programming.
  • In reading, SALA students in grades 3-5 with regular attendance fell only .8% percentile points while students who did not attend any summer programming fell 2.1 percentile points upon returning to school in the fall.
  • Results for all grade 3-5 students regardless of attendance rate showed SALA attendees falling just .3% percentile points in math and .7% in reading. These were significantly smaller losses than students with no summer programming (down 2.8% in math, down 2.1% lost in reading).
  • In literacy, only 3% of the students in grades K-2 attending SALA did not meet their benchmark goal (the empirically derived target score that represents adequate reading progess1) on the standardized DIBELS assessment in the fall after returning to school compared to 8.1% of students not attending any summer programming not meeting the benchmark.

Young Audiences external program evaluation found:

  • 79% of students who attended at least 75% of the program and who took pre- and post-tests had a positive change from the first to the last week of the program on a curriculum based measure of mathematics.
  • Approximately 60% of students who attended at least 75% of the program and who took pre- and post-test writing prompts showed positive change in their structure and content of their writing.
  • 71% of students who attended 75% of the program and were administered pre- and post-assessments showed growth in at least one out of three social emotional competency areas over the course of the program. The social emotional competencies studied were relationship skills, self-awareness, and goal directed.

“The arts offer an extraordinary opportunity, particularly during the summer, to reignite the joy of learning and to set young people on the right course to start the school year strong. These impressive results from Young Audiences mirror findings of the landmark Wallace Foundation study showing that elementary school students with high levels of attendance in high-quality, voluntary summer learning programs can experience benefits in math and reading,” commented Matthew Boulay PhD, National Summer Learning Association founder and interim CEO.

Eric Harrell, father of 9 year-old Academy participant, Aria Harrell, said “Before this academy, I could tell that my daughter was struggling in math. By using the arts she was able to learn math in a different way-a way that worked for her. She has so much more confidence in her math class.”

Young Audiences' Sun

“Dibels Next Benchmark Goals and Composite Score, “ Dynamic Measurement Group, Inc. (December 1, 2010). https://dibels.uoregon.edu/docs/DIBELSNextFormerBenchmarkGoals.pdf

Links to complete City Schools and Young Audiences Evaluations:

YAMD evaluation

City Schools evaluation

Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy is funded by Baltimore City Public Schools, The Abell Foundation, The Family League of Baltimore with the support of the Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation and individual contributions to Young Audiences. All participants are students at a Title I Baltimore City Public School.

YA’s Expanded Summer Arts and Learning Academy Kicks Off Today!

This morning, we kicked off our expanded Summer Arts and Learning Academy – a free, five week program immersing 900 City students in a variety of art forms taught by 36 locally-based professional artists. The full-day program welcomes students grades K-5, encouraging imagination, creation and expression through the arts, such as painting, songwriting, spoken word poetry, dance, piano, singing, visual art, sound production, playwriting, fiber art, and filmmaking.

Our kickoff this morning was a blast – welcoming students and their parents to the Academy’s four sites with high-energy performances, live music, and vibrant interactive art demonstrations – giving them a preview of the truly unique and empowering experiences to come throughout the next five weeks.

Sankofa and Steve Cyphers kick off the Summer Arts and Learning Academy at Fort Worthington Elementary School.
Sankofa with YA roster artist and percussionist Steve Cyphers (far right) kicking off the Summer Arts and Learning Academy at Fort Worthington Elementary School.

Due to last year’s success; with academic gains by students drawing from 93 different city schools—the district asked us to expand the Academy to four sites: Thomas Jefferson Elementary, William Pinderhughes Elementary, Gardenville Elementary and Fort Worthington Elementary.

Working with kids as they discover passions, refine creative processes and integrate arts in their everyday learning is an inspirational experience we and our Teaching Artists look forward to every year. We spoke with a few participating Teaching Artists about their plans and why the Summer Arts Academy is such a great opportunity for students and artists:

Scott Paynter, reggae singer:

I wanted to teach at this year’s Summer Arts and Learning Academy to gain more experience working with Baltimore’s greatest resource…it’s children. My art form helps students express themselves through lyrics, it introduces them to cultures and people they’ve never encountered before, and it brings life to a classroom environment. Music is like a force of nature. It’s everywhere you are if you pay attention.”

Bridget Cavaiola, Baltimore Improv Group:

This is such a unique experience to provide our students with collaborative and engaging arts experiences that they may not get to during the school year. The mood and energy are contagious as you get to watch the students engage themselves in something in which they have passion.”

Alden Phelps, musician:

My focus has always been on playing with words and the joy of language. Language is the foundation of how we communicate and function as human beings. Students who practice manipulating language, expanding their vocabulary, using rhymes, and counting syllables will better succeed in their regular academic work. Creative thinking opens up new pathways in our brains. There’s also a wonderful freedom when a student can express an idea creatively. They synthesize their academic knowledge with skill in the arts, such as using color or figurative language, and the result is far more engaging to them.”

YA roster artist and professional dancer Valerie Branch (left) leading the kickoff at William Pinderhughes Elementary.

pinderhughes5 pinderhughes6pinderhughes1

Students will imagine, create and express themselves through the arts, with a chance to concentrate on two art forms. The students even show-off their talents at Artscape, at pop-up performances in mobile art galleries around the city and at the August 5 final culminating event. We can’t wait to see the students perform!

After this morning’s successful kick-off event, led by teaching artists Valerie Branch and Sean Roberts, at William Pinderhughes Elementary, one parent said:

“I am just so excited to get to see my child perform soon. Seeing what the [teachers and artists] did just now, I know they are in trusted hands. It made me look at my daughter and think yes! This is going to be different, we are so excited! She LOVES art! I can’t wait for the workshops too!”

Young Audiences’ Summer Arts and Learning Academy is funded by Baltimore City Public Schools, The Abell Foundation, The Family League of Baltimore with the support of the Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation and individual contributions to Young Audiences. All participants are students at a Title I Baltimore City Public School.

Learn more about the Summer Arts and Learning Academy.

Announcing our 10th Taste the Arts Fundraising Gala

YAMD-Taste the Arts- 041

Taste the Arts X:

An evening of performance and culinary art!

Friday, May 6 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore

The lineup for our 10th annual Taste the Arts Fundraising Gala is set! We’ve put together another fantastic evening featuring award-winning artists and top culinary talent in Baltimore.

The best part? When you buy your ticket, you support Young Audiences’ programs and mission to bring high quality, low-cost arts experiences to Maryland schoolchildren! Last year we delivered arts experiences to 183,153 students in Maryland. With your ticket purchase, we can keep it up – and do even more.

At Taste the Arts, we’ll transform all three levels of The Hippodrome Theatre into a celebration of the arts through live performances and interactive arts experiences, with food and drink served on all three floors. Here’s a taste of what to expect:

Taste delicacies from 25 restaurants:

  • Absolutely Perfect Catering
  • Alma Cocina Latina
  • Argosy Café
  • Baltimore Waffle Company
  • Blackwater Distilling
  • Blue Pit BBQ
  • Brio Tuscan Grille
  • Charm City Cakes
  • Charmington’s
  • Chiapparelli’s
  • Clavel
  • Gertrude’s
  • Golden West Café
  • Heavy Seas Alehouse
  • La Cuchara
  • Maggie’s Farm
  • Mother’s
  • Teavolve
  • The Charmery
  • The Food Market
  • The Hipp Cafe
  • The Local Oyster
  • The Oceanaire
  • The Scratch Mill Kitchen
  • Tio Pepe
  • Wine from Noble Vintners
  • Beer from Union Craft Brewing

On the menu from Clavel is Cochinita Pibil, a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish, with a side of Hex Ferments special slaw. The tapas-inspired menu from La Cuchara features Charred Broccoli Pintxo and Pickled Mushroom Pintxo. The Local Oyster will be shucking out sustainably farm-raised raw oysters. Maggie’s Farm is serving chicken liver pate with fig jam on baguette and Heavy Seas Alehouse brings it home with Smoked Brisket Mac & Cheese. On the sweet side, Baltimore Waffle Co. will serve up Belgian Liege Waffles and Gertrude’s presents a twist on a Baltimore classic with its Berger Cookie Cheesecake. Local winery, Noble Vintners, has graciously donated wine, and Union Craft will be on hand, offering their award-winning brews!

Don’t miss 9 live performances and interactive art demonstrations, including:

A collaborative music production composed and directed by Wendel Patrick, YA Artist and 2015 Baker Artist Award Winner, and performed by Peabody Institute musicians Jahi Alexander, Blair Skinner, Louna Dekker-Vargas, and Yoshi Horiguchi and YA artists Max Bent, Wendel Patrick, and Jamaal Collier—2016 Artist of the Year.

I don’t want to give away TOO much. But at Taste the Arts, I’ll be working with an arrangement from one of my favorite hip hop producers.” —Wendel Patrick, 2015 Baker Artist Award Winner

FutureMakers light painting
Interactive “light painting” with maker-educators FutureMakers (fresh from Light City!)

Get ready for light painting with LED brushes at Taste the Arts! You’ll even be able to email your creation home!” —Matt Barinholtz, FutureMakers

NRITYA
Indian classical dance performance by NRITYA

I have had the opportunity to be a performer at several Taste the Arts over the years, and I am excited to be a part of the 10th Taste the Arts gala,” she said. “When my students perform with me at the gala, it is a wonderful experience for them as they get to showcase their talent and culture through their performance to the guests. It is almost as if they are cultural ambassadors.” —Lakshmi Swaminathan, NRITYA, as quoted in the article “Tasty fundraiser hits the Hippodrome” on Avenue News.com

Magical Balloon 186
Pantomime theatre from DC’s award-winning Synetic Theater

The Magic Balloon is a series of hilarious sketches synthesizing music, ballet, clowning, and audience participation. At Taste the Arts, you’ll discover the art of acting without words and open the door to your imagination. ‘Balloon’ tells a wonderful story of a traveling actor and his magical trunk of tricks and toys.” —Tori Bertocci, Synetic Theater

Plus:

  • Acoustic roots and blues music by Curtis Blues
  • Screen painting with John Iampieri
  • Performances by Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School’s String Ensemble and Kindergarten ballet dancers
  • Kevin Martin of Rockcreek Steel Drums performing with students from the Holistic Life Afterschool Program at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School

Taste the Arts also includes a live and silent auction with one-of-a-kind items and experiences and an awards ceremony honoring Maryland’s arts-in-education leaders, including 2016 Artist of the Year Jamaal Collier, who has more than a decade of professional experience facilitating Hip Hop workshops and live performances across the state.

“I’m thankful to have an effect on kids’ lives and for the effect they have on me. Every human has talent. YA helped me to build skill within that talent. I have become a better artist because of YA.” —Jamaal Collier, 2016 Artist of the Year

Tickets are only $100 and ensure high-quality art experiences for Maryland schoolchildren. We’re expecting hundreds of artists, educators, and arts supporters in attendance and hope to raise $150,000. Get your tickets now!

Can’t make it to Taste the Arts?
You can still be part of our fundraising efforts by bidding on some fantastic items in our online auction—happening now through Thursday, May 5. There are still a bunch of great items available with low or no bids, and several new items were just added this week!

Uncle Devin

Meet Our Artists: Uncle Devin

Uncle Devin

Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters.

We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools. 

How did you first hear about Young Audiences?  What made you decide to become a roster artist?

I first heard about Young Audiences at a children’s artist conference in Brooklyn, New York. Someone had mentioned the opportunities that the arts-in-education network provides for teaching artists. What attracted me to Young Audiences was the opportunity to learn how to apply and incorporate my music into educational settings for children. Learning about Young Audiences stood out to me because it brought me back to my own childhood memories. I can still distinctly remember performing artists coming into my elementary school when I was child. If you could believe it, to this day, I can still recite many of the concepts I learned from the artistic educators then.

When you were young and those artistic experiences influenced your educational development, did you know that you would pursue a similar career?

I knew that music would be in my future, but I have to admit, I did not think about it from the standpoint of becoming a children’s artist just yet. The idea did not come to me until about 8 or 9 years ago as I told my young nephews and nieces bedtime stories. If you recite the same stories often enough, you have to come up with creative ways to keep children engaged. That’s when I started to recite the storybooks to music and this sparked the idea of recording it. My niece took those recordings into her school so she could share them with friends and classmates. Her friends loved it so much and they began to pick up on the name “Uncle Devin.” Soon enough, people began to refer to me with that title and that’s how the name came about. So really, it was my nieces, nephews, and family who helped me come up with the idea to work with children’s music!

Uncle Devin

You are already a professional artists. What specifically made you choose to join Young Audiences as a roster artist?

I needed professional development in certain areas of my work. I wanted to grasp Young Audiences’ process of curriculum development, arts integration, and I needed to learn how to run a workshop or assembly properly. After hearing other roster artists speak about their experiences with Young Audiences, I began to realize that the organization was a top-notch educational network that not only provides artistic services to schools, but also trains artists to provide these opportunities for the schools. A lot of artists may want to take on this process themselves, but I did not have the desire to establish relationships with schools on my own time when I knew could do it through Young Audiences! It’s a win-win situation for everyone and Young Audiences is the perfect environment for me to learn and share my artistry.

Did you feel like the training you completed with Young Audiences made a big difference in your work?

Absolutely! Without a doubt. It was like I was a little kid back in school again at Young Audiences’ Teaching Artist Institute (TAI). I had to re-learn concepts and the curriculum. Through training at TAI, I walked away having learned that when you give school presentations and assemblies, it’s all about the artist, but when you create a school residency, it’s all about the students. I could not hide behind my artistry when it came to working with children–I had to know the curriculum and the standards as well. It’s been a great opportunity for me to learn how to teach and give back by sharing my passion for music.

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you have brought to students with Young Audiences? Do you have a favorite memory from a program?

I have so many, but I’ll share two great ones. One day as I was packing up my equipment after a great program in a Baltimore school, a little girl came up to me and hugged my leg. She said “Uncle Devin, I don’t want you to leave!” The teacher walked up to us and said “That’s what makes this worth it.” I smiled back and responded, “Yes, it does.”

Another great moment that stands out to me is when I performed at another school in Baltimore. This situation was unique because I didn’t know that my good friend’s daughter attended this school and I didn’t find out until afterward with a surprise. Later that evening, my friend, the young girl’s daughter called me, and over the speaker phone her daughter began to recite some of the concepts she had learned earlier that day during the program. I thought, she’s got it! That was a wonderful moment because I realized I wasn’t just there to perform music, I was there to teach.

How does your art form help connect students to what they are learning in school?

One: Communication. Percussion was one of the first forms of communication that human beings utilized. To be able to show children how to use drums as a communication tool is a very unique way to relate to what they’re learning in school.

Two: Mathematics. I have a song I do called “Count Our Numbers” where we count to five using four different languages. It blends different areas of their studies involving language, mathematics, and music.

Three: Working together. I help children figure out their role in a collaborative team while building musical pieces. It takes a family to build a piece of music together collectively.

Why do you believe percussion specifically is important for every student to have access to?

The heart beat. Everyone has their own beat. It’s about understanding that everyone is unique. Drumming is something that you do every day and many don’t even realize it. It’s in the pace of our walk, the number of times we blink our eyes, or the way we tap our fingers on a table. People naturally make rhythms everyday and it’s an ongoing process. I believe that percussion is so important to society because it is directly connected to our natural rhythms of life. Once we understand it, drumming can enhance our quality of life individually and with one another. I have a new book coming out called ABCs of Percussion,that describes one percussion instrument per letter of the alphabet and includes a music CD that will allow the reader to hear each instrument.

How do the lessons and skills you teach students about or through your art form apply to and affect their everyday life outside of the classroom? 

Outside of the classroom, music helps connects people to culture. Music enriches children’s lives. If we never spoke a word, we could communicate through music. Music brings people together and it never sets us apart. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audience roster artist?

I wish that everyone could experience the feeling of standing before 100 to 200 young people and knowing that you have their undivided attention. Being able to see the smiles that your art form brings to their faces is an indescribable feeling. Knowing that I am touching the next generation and providing children with a positive experience is far more fulfilling than I could ever have expected or describe. Being a children’s artist is essential to developing the type of peaceful world we want to live in. We need more resources and we need more artists. You can never have too many artists. We really need more people to consider carrying on this tradition of teaching through the arts with their skills. The world continues to create a cultural change through music and I am so happy to be a part of it.

Learn more about Uncle Devin’s offerings through Young Audiences.

Visit Uncle Devin’s website.

Max Bent smART Tip

Teach fractions with beatboxing in February’s smART Tip

Max Bent smART Tip

In February’s smART Tip, Young Audiences beatboxer Max Bent shares the basics of vocal percussion and how it can connect to other subjects, such as fraction units in math. Press play below!

[youtube http://youtu.be/5WEcbnQWcAM]

smART Tips is a monthly video series sharing tips for educators who are interested in new, creative ways to use the arts in their classroom with students. See all smART Tips to date here. Interested in a specific topic? Let us know!

Make your own drums with January’s smART Tip

In our January smART Tip, Young Audiences musician and percussionist Steve Cyphers shows how you can easily and inexpensively create bucket drums for your students with materials found at your local hardware store. Get started by pressing play below.

[youtube http://youtu.be/rWIGPp_NTOs?list=PLUssR-3GtBZfiKXpU72zQAkgXh3wBcBzQ]

smART Tips is a monthly video series sharing tips for educators who are interested in new, creative ways to use the arts in their classroom with students. See all smART Tips to date here. Interested in a specific topic? Let us know!